“YouthForLions” Workshop a Roaring Success
The Blood Lions “YouthForLions” team hosted a workshop for more than 120 high school and university students at UKZN’s Howard College Theatre on Saturday, 2 March.
The event highlighted and discussed activities associated with the captive lion breeding industry in South Africa, and other pressing conservation and tourism topics, such as responsible tourism, ethical volunteering programmes, and the harm caused by interacting with wild animals. This was followed by a screening of the award winning film, Blood Lions® which follows acclaimed environmental journalist and safari operator Ian Michler, and Rick Swazey, an American hunter, on their journey to uncover the realities of the multimillion-dollar lion breeding and canned hunting industry in South Africa.
The Blood Lions “YouthForLions” campaign is a global movement aimed at informing and engaging the world’s youth around the realities of tourist activities that exploit lion, such as cub petting and walking with lions; and these activities’ contribution to the canned hunting industry in South Africa.
The students were inspired by presentations by YouthForLions Co-ordinator Cath Jakins; Wildlife ACT’s Mark Gerrard and Zama Ncube; Thompsons Africa’s Janine Southwood; Youth 4 African Wildlife’s Fortunate Phaka; and Project Rhino and Rhino Art’s Grant Fowlds; as well as Nune Jobe (Trails Guide and Youth Mentor), Melumsi Matiwane (Rhino Art Educator), and Ben Wallace (Videographer).
Following the presentations and the film, the students broke into groups and were given the task of creating a unique YouthForLions campaign to create awareness around the critical conservation issues they learnt about during the workshop. The Blood Lions “YouthForLions” team were thoroughly impressed by the wide variety of ideas presented by the 11 groups and faced the difficult task of deciding which was the most captivating and original campaign. The winning group received a two-day trip to the iconic Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve where they will have the opportunity to track and monitor wild lions and other priority species with conservation NGO, Wildlife ACT.
The students left the event with deeper understanding of the captive breeding industry, as well as the terms “responsible tourism” and “ethical wildlife volunteering”. They were also exposed to possible career paths and opportunities in the conservation field.
Gerrard commented: ‘It is vital to see such a huge group of youth here posing such relevant questions to the speakers. This event is a great initiative to work towards developing our future leaders in the conservation space.’
Jakins added that: ‘Engaging with the youth of KwaZulu-Natal at our workshop today has been such an amazing experience for myself and the rest of the Blood Lions “YouthForLions” team. It is really inspiring to see such passionate young people getting together to help make a difference for our wildlife.’